The ‘Good Enough’ revolution is just a way of life

We like watching TV in high definition, but Hulu is “good enough.” We like buying DVDs, but renting on Netflix is “good enough.” We like listening to our music collection, but Pandora is “good enough.”

Wired magazine coined the phrase “Good Enough Revolution” back in August of 2009 and the idea is that today, users will accept less functionality and less advanced products for more convenience and greater availability.

“[Hulu’s] content may not be hi-def, and you’re stuck watching it on a computer screen, but Hulu lets you catch recent television shows and popular movies whenever and wherever you want. For free. No wonder it has 40 million unique viewers.”

Quality simply isn’t the top priority as it once was to consumers, says Wired. Instead, we prefer the ease and convenience of Hulu, Netflix, and Flip cameras.

But, from a Gen Y perspective, I disagree with the views they have on this “revolution.” I don’t think that consumers are lowering their standards for the things they buy.

Because we grew up in the middle of the technological revolution, we understand that innovation occurs.  We also understand that this can also bring negative consequences.  This technical revolution has provided consumers with new capabilities, and options that were unheard of 15 years ago. Thus, we have a different set of needs when it comes to purchasing products.

Because we grew up in the technology boom, we know that something better will always be on the horizon.  Businesses feel that their new products are those “better somethings” that will change the world and they want to make adoption of their product as easy as possible.  Thankfully for them, Gen Y is full of early adopters who are willing to try a new product that could improve their life in some way. This adaptability has lead to many new product trials – with some successes and some failures.

But we’re okay with this. In fact, we love this.  As a generation, we love the opportunity to try new things and see if they will actually make our lives easier.  If they do, we will happily adopt.  If they don’t, we will happily go back to how we did things before and keep our eye out for the next new product.

This tendency for trial and error also shows the focus we place on usability and product success.  Because we have tried so many products, and generally understand what we like, we place a high value on a product being simple, having a short learning curve, and performing the way it says it will. If a product doesn’t provide us with additional value than the one we are currently using, we won’t adopt it – plain and simple.

We grew up in one of the greatest economic booms our country has ever seen.  We grew up in the good times; discretionary spending was what we were raised on. But, we have also learned a valuable lesson in the past five years. This economic period has changed us as a generation forever.  As a young generation, we were planning on having the good things in life, making money to both save and spend.

But when the Great Recession happened, it made us take a step back and reevaluate what was important.

We now put a high premium on value – is the price you charge worth the benefits I will receive?  We’re being more careful with spending our money.  Why did the major movie studios make an agreement with Netflix to release their DVDs to the rental service three months after they release? Because we don’t buy DVDs anymore.  The ability to pay $10 a month and watch anything we want far outweighs buying a DVD for twice the price.

A product that delivers what you want it to sounds like a good product, not a product that is “good enough.”

Michael Masnick at Techdirt says, “The concept of ‘good enough’ misses the point…The real problem is that some [companies] start to focus on the ‘quality’ aspect of the product, rather than the quality of meeting what the consumer wants.”

Likewise, I don’t see this as a “revolution” by any means.  I don’t see it as consumers being willing accept less from their products.  I see it as consumers changing their ideas of “benefits” and “value.” Just because we’re focusing more on price and convenience than on features and power doesn’t mean that those new products are inferior.  In fact, one could argue that they are superior; they are geared more towards the general wants of consumers.

Gen Y is the perfect example of why this shift has occurred, but is also the perfect example of why it’s not a “revolution.”  It’s only a shift in the preferences of individuals. And businesses are listening to us.

Photo by chris.corwin

Todd Liss Hi everyone, I'm Todd. I recently completed my MBA coursework in marketing and decided to to blaze my own Gen Y trail and start my own business. I now spend my days helping small to medium companies improve their online connections with their past, current and future customers. Twitter: @ToddLiss

View all posts by Todd Liss

8 Responses to “The ‘Good Enough’ revolution is just a way of life”

  1. michelletripp

    Excellent post, Todd! This all started rearing its head around the time iPods came out. At the time, it would have been an atrocity to listen to your precious music collection on anything other than a remastered CD playing on a “hi-fi” stereo system with 10+ inch sub woofers and Dolby 4.1 surround sound. It's almost comical looking back at how important it was, and how those little quality advances in sound technology meant so much.

    But as you said, consumer values shift and quality no longer compares to convenience and availability. This is why we're surfing the web and consuming so much content on small iPhones and iPads instead of lugging the 17″ laptop everywhere. It's hard to imagine watching Netflix on such a small screen, but yeah, sooner or later we'll be doing it and loving it.

    It'll be interesting to see where this trend leads and how values continue to shift in order to be in line with technology and our changing lifestyles. Again, thanks for the thought-provoking post!

  2. Jeff Shattuck

    Wired is just trying to sell magazines. “Good enough” has always been around (remember the cassette,
    VHS, Jim Beam?). The real revolution is that technology has advanced so far that today's good is better than yesterday's best.

    If there is a true “good enough” revolution it's happening in data center computing, where Wintel and Lintel are fine for most applications. You can still pony up for IBM, but you mostly don't have to.

  3. Jeff Shattuck

    Michelle, quality still matters. Truly, walk into any Apple store and almost every audio product in it vastly outperforms the boom boxes of yore. As for multichannel, it's not my thing, but anyone into home theater will pay through the nose for max bass THUMP, clear dialogue and a screen so high rez it looks like a window into another world.

  4. michelletripp

    Jeff, I actually do agree to some extent. I just think that most (not all!) people who love music own an mp3 player which means they're willing to exchange quality for convenience, assuming a lower bit rate for a higher number of songs stored. I'm more just musing at how I used to be all about hearing every note from every instrument on every single audible frequency, and how times (and values) have changed. I agree, there are instances when great sound is important, and there are plenty of audio aficionados who still exist, but there's no denying that there's been a shift.

  5. Howie at Sky Pulse Media

    Just wished to comment from 2000-2009 was the great recession. Not just the last 2 years. We had many quarters of GDP growth that was slower than inflation. Except for the Rich everyone was making less money in real terms after inflation. So your Generation really has had to deal with a lot. It wasn't a depression but 80% of all families slid backwards under Bush.

    Great article post btw awesome stuff for this Gen Xer to read.

  6. Edward Boches

    Some good points, but I think you miss the intended point of the GER. It's not about quality, per se, it's about a new definition of quality. Look at iPods. The sound sucks compared to the Harmon Kardon amplifiers and Klipsch speakers we had when I was in college. We could replicate concert hall sound. MP3s condense music to such a degree that you are permanently reducing your range of hearing. But you (we/I) now value something different: portability, accessibility, convenience, affordability. That is what is meant by The GER. There are many examples of it: music, YouTube, digital content, etc. You and Masnick are playing a semantic game here. And the reason your argument in light of the Wired declaration is off a little is that you don't have a deep enough frame of reference. I totally agree with the Masnick quote, but he is actually saying the same thing that Wired says. Not about product specs, about consumer desires. Once the consumer desired polish and finish and perfection; now it's about instant, customizable, now. Nevertheless, this is a great argument and POV and, as always, SoMe and TNGG welcome diverse opinions and POVs. Thanks for writing.

  7. Jurriaan

    Great article, great discussion.

    I am on a quest towards defining what poor customers in emerging markets mean by saying a product suits their needs ‘good-enough’. Could use some help!

    Writing a master thesis on frugal innovation from emerging markets, where poverty forces potential consumers to buy only those products that are affordable, appropriate and accessible, in other words, are good-enough to meet their most basic, essential needs,

    I wonder:

    Why a new definition of product quality? isn’t quality just at the same level as affordability, appropriateness, accessibility, functionality etc?

    Poor potential customers decide whether to adopt an innovation on whether they perceive it to be ‘good enough’ to meet their criteria. Product quality refers to the product, not to any need of the potential customer.

    I guess i got a bit confused here.


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